Bachelor of International Studies, 3rd year
Bachelor of International Studies, 3rd year

Academic Experiences 

I undertook the Certificate of International Studies (Attestation d'Etudes Politiques) in French. Which is a structured semester long programme with a two week introductory course that teaches you about Breton culture, food, landscape, climate ect. Plus a bit of vocabulary and grammar to get you warmed up for the semester.

I studied the three compulsory courses with the other exchange students (French history and civilisation and French grammar) plus three electives with the local french students (history of political ideas, history of French politics and sociology of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict). I only did first and second year courses which were really challenging even though I had a B2 level of French.

The hardest part of studying was not knowing what the professors wanted from each assessment, it's really important to ask them about every assignment and to email them before exams start to find out what will be on the test because usually they don't tell you in class and there are no electronic profiles (it's a very different academic culture to our own). I found the amount of information given in each lecture very difficult to process particularly while learning to write notes in French but I made friends with the other French students in my classes who were always happy to give me their own notes.

The biggest hurdle that I faced on exchange was when I didn't know that I had to email the professor to find out if there was an assignment for that class so when I sat my exam I was told that I missed the submission date! Luckily I had a really great network of friends who kept me calm and helped me explain the misunderstand to the professor and the exchange coordinator who gave me a second chance. So I had to write the entire assignment in exam block, I worked harder than I have ever worked in my life but I was able to make it through and in the end I was really proud of what I had achieved.

Personal Experiences

The most important thing I gained from exchange was the memories that I made with the people I met. Sciences Po Rennes is really great because it's a small campus so I was able to meet a lot of the French students and international students and see them every day. Plus there is a student organisation there called Zephyr who organised really fun field trips throughout Brittany and the other regions of France. We visited the Châteaux de la Loire on a weekend trip, walked 20 kms in the rain along the coast, played soccer next to the light house on a cliff. Brittany is the most beautiful region of France and I was lucky enough to visit most of it with my friends.

I also travelled during the holidays with the other exchange students because it was so cheap, most flights around Europe are less than 50 euros so we definitely made the most of it! I developed a passion for travelling and after meeting all these incredible people I really wan ted to visit them all in their respective countries!

Accommodation

I lived in the Sévigné student residence which was a 10 minute walk from the university. I loved living in the dorms because it gave me an insight into what it was like to live independently whilst living right next door to my closest friends. There is a real sense of community in the kitchen, especially if you're lucky enough to walk in when a group of students are having a dinner party because they'll often give you some of their food! It's a great way to try authentic cooking from other cultures and to save yourself if you're a bad cook like me!

I would advise incoming students to bring over a sleeping bag, a set of single bed sheets and a towel which saves you from having to buy linen while you are over there and then throwing it out at the end. Also Zephyr and other residents hand out donated utensils and homewares during the first few weeks of semester so if you can manage to hold out with just a bowl and a spoon for a few days, it will save you a lot of money when outgoing students give you their things.

Budget 

Rent was 250 euros per month which was relatively affordable but with the exchange rate groceries work out to being as expensive as back home. Considering the amount of housewares and cleaning products you need to buy, I think the estimated living costs are a little low.

As for transport it's a personal choice, I decided not to get a Korigo (the equivalent of a go card) because I was happy to walk everywhere but I know many students preferred to catch the bus into town. Travel within Brittany is very cheap only 5-10 euros return for day trips but getting to Paris even with a Carte Jeune TGV reduction card is still very expensive unless you take the bus. If you are planning on travelling it is cheap relative to travelling from Australia but the costs do add up.

For me personally I travelled to four countries plus living expenses plus shopping and entertainment (French movies are cheap but English movies are expensive) I spent over 6,000 but that was definitely a personal choice. Also it is really important to budget for emergencies or unforeseen problems, my friend had both her wallet and phone stolen whilst travelling and my own phone fell in the water so we both had to pay a lot for replacements.

Academic development and employability

I have gained a lot of self confidence through all the challenges I overcame during exchange. I think that how you carry yourself is vital in seeking professional work so this is definitely an attribute that I believe to be beneficial. I have also improved my problem solving skills, working under pressure, managing stress levels and overcoming situations of adversity. My language skills have vastly improved and I now have experience in writing academic assignments in French.

Highlight

I don't have one single highlight of my exchange, rather every time that I had dinner and shared a meal with my friends in Brittany was someting really special that I will never forget. Dinner is a huge part of French culture and being able to share amazing food and drink with my friends, experiencing a new part of their culture every dinner was humbling. I felt as if these people I had only known for a few months were my family, every meal we shared brought us closer. When I think of my exchange I will remember the people, the food and the table we sat around.

Top Tips

Be organised before you leave, think about what you want out of exchange and also what you could want because your priorities will change. Don't let opportunities pass you by because you feel as if that's not the reason you came on exchange. I wish I had looked further into opportunities to get involved in the international relations work happening in Europe. I also highly recommend getting onto the administration side of things as quickly as possible, even though it is not fun at the start of exchange. If I had of opened a bank account and applied for CAF much sooner in the year it would have really helped financially.

Most of all have fun, throw yourself into every opportunity you see and give 100% to the experience.

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